Chicago was the center of the American political universe in the summer of 1932, playing host to the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions.
"For the next three weeks Chicago will be in the spotlight," the Tribune declared. "By newspaper and radio the American audience will follow with breathless interest the unfolding of the plot of the quadrennial thriller."With the nation mired in its worst economic crisis, the election would be one of the most crucial in the country's history, and the two parties would offer dramatically different candidates.
A dispirited GOP trooped into the Chicago Stadium to renominate President Herbert Hoover, who preached "rugged individualism" as a way for Americans to see themselves through the bad times.
Two weeks later, eight candidates turned up at the Democratic convention--also in the Stadium--to challenge the front-runner, New York Gov. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who called for massive government intervention to end the Depression.
The biggest threat to FDR came from Al Smith, who had been the 1928 Democratic nominee. Smith's strategy was to deadlock the convention and give control of the nomination to party leaders, many of whom were wary of Roosevelt's ideas about social and government reforms. Roosevelt, Smith asserted, "can't get elected."
Through three tedious roll calls, the Roosevelt forces bartered with delegations and finally put their man over the top on the fourth try when House Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas folded his candidacy in exchange for the vice presidential nomination.
After winning the nomination on this date, Roosevelt boarded a tri-motor plane in Albany, N.Y., and flew to Chicago for an unprecedented address to the convention. "These are unprecedented and unusual times," Roosevelt said. "May this (appearance) be the symbol of my intention to be honest and to avoid all hypocrisy or sham."
Roosevelt, who would trounce Hoover and be nominated in Chicago again in 1940 and 1944, summoned the nation to battle back from despair. "I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a New Deal for the American people," he said, introducing the name for the governmental programs that would be created to fight the Depression.